REVOLT opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

opposing unnecessary, excessive
and intrusive powerline development

REVOLT Newsletter 260

Revolt news 18/09 2008 Print (pdf) Version

The previous news259 was issued back in July. Occasional items have been collected through August, not quite enough to stimulate another issue. Now the new season brings a cascade of news. The following items are roughly in chronological order, the most recent being last.

1. The UK regulator Ofcom has found that the film The Great Global Warming Swindle (news229, 236) broadcast by Channel 4 has breached the Broadcasting Code. The Ofcom web site gives details; the following news item links to the full findings: 

2. It is interesting to compare findings about the “Swindle” and “Inconvenient Truth” films, on either side of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) debate (news236-239). Al Gore’s “Truth” was to have been shown in British schools. Both sides have been found at fault from procedural and political perspectives, and both films have been found at fault scientifically. In my view it is better to have both than to have only one such faulty source.

3. It is interesting too to compare this pair of unashamed polemic films with the pair of sober and authentic scientific reviews commissioned for the US Congress. One is the NRC report, the other the Wegman Report (news216, 239, 256). These two reports were not in scientific disagreement with each other, but there were differences in scope, in emphasis and in their subsequent presentation. The key focus was on the infamous “hockey stick” icon championed by the IPCC and by Al Gore, though the NRC report also reviewed the scientific basis for AGW. A very good summary can be found on the Wikipedia page “Hockey Stick Controversy”, which has links to the full reports. My summary: the hockey stick is technically wrong, and was used to exaggerate the case for AGW, but 20th Century warming is clear and gives some support for AGW.

Note added: the hockey stick authors (Michael Mann et al) have (with an extended team) revised their work in Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 9 September 2008 [PNAS 2008 105:13252-13257; doi:10.1073/pnas.0805721105]. This broadly endorses and extends the main conclusion “recent Northern Hemisphere surface temperature increases are likely anomalous in a long-term context”, using more data and methods. Nice graphs, if not quite hockey sticks!

4. The 13-country WHO-led Interphone controversy continues (news236, 249, 256, 258, 259). Parts of the results have been published but the overall study is still not complete some two and a half years after the results. On a popular US TV show on 29 July the Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society called for release of the study results. For more details following the Interphone study, see 

5. It is understandable that controversial results lead to difficult discussions among multiple participants, but for studies of major public interest like the Interphone project it would be better to publish the results early, perhaps with a non-conclusive summary of the issues still under discussion. Holding back results breeds suspicion; the 2005 Draper study in the UK and the wrangling over the hockey stick data on climate change are other contemporary examples.

6. Science magazine  29 August 2008 reports the Lerchl-Rudiger controversy (news258.7/AppxA). Following the revelation in the BMJ in June I commented in Revolt news that this looks like “very muddy waters”. The report in Science does little to clarify them. Indeed, it says the issue has become “murkier”. Rudiger’s reported agreement to retract both papers is now said to be reversed; he retracts the later one (2008) and claims the earlier 2005 paper was unaffected by the controversy. Another co-author does not agree to any retraction. Rudiger also says the technician who resigned did so “to focus on finishing an MBA”. While suspicions abound, it would be wise to wait until the waters become much clearer before leaning towards conclusions; that should apply especially to those in authority or in evaluation bodies!

7. The Science magazine article has also been criticised in other respects. It claims “The only two peer-reviewed scientific papers showing that electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from cell phones can cause DNA breakage”. That brought rebuttal in a letter from Cindy Sage, Co-Editor of the Bio-Initiative report, in which Henry Lai reviews over 100 relevant studies, a majority of which show effects on DNA.

8. The Dutch Health Council reports, in its letter 2nd September to government, on its review of the Bio-Initiative Report. The Dutch letter makes some fair criticisms, but mistakes the nature of the BI Report, which was not necessarily a complete and balanced overall evaluation, but contained several very valuable and extensive individual evaluations on key topics by prominent authors well known as dissenters from the official WHO and ICNIRP positions. Taken for what it is, the BI report is not only a valuable resource in itself, but also a signal of substantial and genuine scientific dissatisfaction with the WHO and ICNIRP positions.

9. The EU Parliament, in its Mid-term review of the European Environment and Health Action Plan 2004-2010, has on 4th September adopted Text relating to EMFs in Document P6_TA(2008)0410. At paragraphs 21-23, it expresses great concern at the Bio-Initiative Report on EMF, notes that the present limits are “obsolete”, and calls on the EU Council to amend its Recommendation 1999/519/EC to set stricter exposure limits in the 0.1 - 300 GHz frequency range. That is directed to telecoms exposures rather than power systems. 

10. Next-up news reports 15-9-08 that Lichtenstein has adopted low exposure limits for telecoms EMFs, following the Bio-Initiative Report (news234 and  ). Reference is to Federal Laws Compendium No. 199 issued 28 July 2008 effective from 1 September 2008. The translations are not entirely clear but it appears that Article 34 sets peak electric field limits for base stations and wi-fi (other than for security and assistance systems) of from 4 to 6 V/m compared with ICNIRP reference levels (for investigation and which can be exceeded) of over 60 V/m. Further, Article 34 sets a limit of 0.6 V/m for average field for base stations to be achieved by 2012. While the report on Lichtenstein does not appear to cover powerline fields, the Bio-Initiative Report also calls for much lower limits there.

11. A 17th September report by Fells Associates warns of UK power cuts in five years time. It calls for more urgent nuclear power development, less subsidy of renewable energy and more transmission connections to France and Scandinavia. 

12. Two EMF conferences were held I London 8-10 September, with key speakers from the EU, USA, and Russia, and bringing together the “EMF establishment” and leading contributors to the Bio-Initiative Report. The first was held 8-9 September by the Radiation Research Trust  , the second 10 September by the Institute of Physics  . The full programmes covered the three main themes of power-frequency exposures, mobile phones and base stations, and electro-sensitive people. I gave presentations at each event, examining conflicts and ways forward. Presentations from opposing perspectives were heard with lively discussion, though there was not time for meaningful dialogue to develop. While concerns were aired, the two sides did not seem to get any closer together.



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